The Milwaukee Bucks may have something in Sandro Mamukelashvili

Dec 2, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the best ways for a contender to remain a contender is by finding talent in the draft, especially in the later rounds. Teams can find productive players that fit what their system requires and do so without spending too much while also having control. The Milwaukee Bucks have been in contention for a few years and need to do just that.

Take a look at what the Golden State Warriors have been able to do by plugging a player like Jordan Poole into their system and developing him into someone that is a key piece. Poole, a Milwaukee native, was taken with the 28th overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft and is having a breakout season.

Sure, they’ve also been lucky enough to have multiple lottery picks that have netted them three good young players, but hitting in the later parts of the draft is key to building a contender and keeping your status as one for longer than a couple of seasons.

The Bucks haven’t had a first-round pick of their own since Donte DiVincenzo, but have taken the approach of taking multiple swings in the late second round and seeing which players can stick. They selected Jordan Nwora and Sam Merrill last season then Sandro Mamukelashvili and Georgios Kalaitzakis. Two of those players are no longer with the organization, one is trying to get into the rotation, and the other is showing promise that he may be able to do the same.

Sandro Mamukelashvili could be a solid find for the Milwaukee Bucks

It’s an interesting strategy that general manager Jon Horst has taken with the draft in the last couple of seasons, particularly in this most recent draft. The success rate on second-round picks becoming anything more than draft fodder is very low, so getting more swings increases your chances of finding someone who can become a useful player.

Milwaukee had the 31st overall pick in the 2021 draft and many, including myself, were intrigued as to who they would select with that pick. I mean, it’s essentially a late first-rounder, so there’s the potential to get someone who could make an impact. Perhaps not in the coming season, but down the line.

Instead, they flipped the pick for multiple second-round picks later in the draft and selected Mamukelashvili and Kalaitzakis. As we know, the Bucks let Kalaitzakis go recently to open a roster spot for Wesley Matthews, but Mamukelashvili has shown some promise so far.

Due to the many injuries and illnesses the Bucks have endured this season, Mamukelashvili has played more than most would have anticipated beginning his NBA career. He’s played 17 out of a possible 32 games and has played nearly 200 minutes, the sixth-most of any player selected in the second round from this past draft.

He’s averaging 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds while shooting over 40 percent from 3 on 27 total attempts. That last part will be key for Mamukelashvili if he wants to stick in the league as a rotation player. He’s not much of a rim protector (opponents are shooting over 67 percent against him in the restricted area, per but he’s proven to be a tenacious rebounder that will relentlessly crash the offensive boards.

Offensively, most of his game has been on the offensive boards, but we’ve seen more from him in his G League stints. Through three games with the Wisconsin Herd, the 22-year-old is averaging 20.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists with a 67 percent true shooting. He’s shooting over 53 percent from 3, which won’t last but is a good sign for his ability to hit 3s long-term, but it’s the assist numbers that stand out for me.

We saw his unique ball-handling and playmaking ability with Seton Hall but he hasn’t had to do much of that with the Bucks, simply because there are better ball handlers and passers on the team. But it’s something I didn’t want him or the team to abandon as it’s what made him such an interesting prospect.

Multiple clips showcase his ball-handling ability and that’s the most promising thing about his G League appearances so far. He won’t be able to do it much with the Bucks this season, but I’m glad he is still using those skills against weaker competition.

He’s an interesting player to project long-term because of that ball-handling and if his shooting is real, then that’s a big plus for him. He has shown hesitancy at times in the NBA when shooting off the catch, but if he can force teams to defend him on the perimeter, then he can start showing off his handles a bit more by putting the ball on the floor and attacking closeouts.

Going forward, I’m not going to project Mamukelashvili to be anything more than a rotational big man, but that’s huge for both him and the Bucks when you factor in how late in the draft he was taken. They’ve already seemingly got a rotation piece in Nwora, so adding another with a late second-round pick in Mamukelashvili would do wonders for their depth.

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As the Bucks continue to navigate their health and safety protocol issues, look for Mamukelashvili to get more rotation minutes to build his confidence against NBA players.